Quote Origin: The Ideals Which Have Always Shone Before Me and Filled Me With the Joy of Living Are Goodness, Beauty, and Truth

Albert Einstein? Apocryphal?

Quote Investigator®
3 min readAug 2


Letter titles from Unsplash

Question for Quote Investigator: Albert Einstein once spoke about his ideals which apparently included goodness, beauty, and truth. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Reply from Quote Investigator: In 1930 the journal “Forum and Century” published a philosophical article by Albert Einstein titled “What I Believe”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI

To ponder interminably over the reason for one’s own existence or the meaning of life in general seems to me, from an objective point of view, to be sheer folly. And yet everyone holds certain ideals by which he guides his aspiration and his judgment.

The ideals which have always shone before me and filled me with the joy of living are goodness, beauty, and truth. To make a goal of comfort or happiness has never appealed to me; a system of ethics built on this basis would be sufficient only for a herd of cattle.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1954 a collection of Albert Einstein’s essays was published under the title “Ideas and Opinions”. The book included the article “The World As I See It” with a new translation by Sonja Bargmann:²

In this sense I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves — this ethical basis I call the ideal of a pigsty.

The ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. Without the sense of kinship with men of like mind, without the occupation with the objective world, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific endeavors, life would have seemed to me empty.

In 2015 “An Einstein Encyclopedia” by Alice Calaprice, Daniel Kennefick, and Robert Schulmann included a reprint of the 1930 essay “What I Believe”.³

In conclusion, Albert Einstein serves credit for this thought. Two different versions in English are presented above based on two different translations.

Image Notes: Letter titles spelling three words from Brett Jordan at Unsplash.

Acknowledgement: Great thanks to Jane Bella who saw a tweet containing this quotation and sent an inquiry to QI who formulated this question and performed this exploration. Bella located a blog post which cited the essay in “Ideas and Opinions”.

[1] 1930 October, Forum and Century, Volume 84, Number 4, Living Philosophies XIII: What I Believe by Albert Einstein, Start Page 193, Quote Page 193, Forum Publishing Company, New York. (Verified with scans)

[2] 1954 Copyright, Ideas and Opinions by Albert Einstein, Based on Mein Weltbild and Other Sources, Edited by Carl Seelig, Translated by Sonja Bargmann, Chapter: The World As I See It, Start Page 8, Quote Page 9, Bonanza Books, New York. (Verified with scans)

[3] 2015, An Einstein Encyclopedia by Alice Calaprice, Daniel Kennefick, and Robert Schulmann, Chapter: Credo: “What I Believe”, Quote Page xxi, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (Verified with scans)



Quote Investigator®

Garson O'Toole specializes in tracing quotations. He operates the QuoteInvestigator.com website which receives more than 4 million visitors per year